Schools conceived of as care-givers undermine the family
My latest on LifeSite.
During the Coronavirus epidemic high-profile British soccer-player Marcus Rashford called for the extension of free school lunches over the school holidays. School meals are free in the U.K. for the children of poorer families, and Rashford thought that it would make sense for this concept to be extended to the time when schools are out. Prime Minister Boris Johnson caved in to the campaign in the summer, giving poorer families vouchers to use in supermarkets, but refused to do so again for the Christmas break, though a lot of volunteers did step in with offers of free cooked meals, and the government promised help through the normal channels of the welfare system. In the meantime Rashford was given an honor—“Member of the British Empire” (MBE)—usually given to people who have spent a lifetime volunteering, at the age of 23.
Rashford’s initiative was prompted by a commendable compassion, but there is something slightly troubling about the terms in which his campaign took off. Feeding the very poor is a fundamental category of good work, but what have schools got to do with it? It was difficult to shake off the impression that Rashford was benefitting from an unfortunate idea which seems to have taken hold: that schools are primary care-givers. If they are, the periods of time in which schools are not in session, for whatever reason, become problematic. Who is going to look after the children then?